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Highlights 2020

Applications of Climate Change Models in Southern Oklahoma

December 22, 2020

The Red River Basin in the South Central region has experienced both drought and flooding events throughout the past, with more extreme events occurring in the 21st century. Extreme droughts and flooding events can cause major disruptions in water availability for agriculture, tourism, and power generation in the region. In light of these events, the South Central CASC provided funding to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation to create a water availability model using future climate scenarios that also incorporated water rights within the reservations of the Nations. Using this new model, projections of future hydrology in this region can be used by various stakeholders, including water resource managers to development or update drought plans and inform other climate adaptation efforts. For more information, follow the links below:


Building New Partnerships with the National Wildlife Refuges

December 17, 2020

For the South Central CASC, 2020 was a year for building partnerships with agencies across Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana. One successful new partnership included the National Wildlife Refuges spanning the south central region, which started with numerous conversations with Refuge Managers at the start of 2020. During this initial time period, introductory discussions were held with over 30 different refuge managers and biologists to learn about their management priorities and how climate change is impacting the refuges. Refuges across this region are particularly interested in migratory birds, invasive species, prescribed burning, and water availability. From these concerns and focus areas, we developed a proposal built upon the National CASC efforts with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. This proposal was selected for funding and as a result of our relationship building efforts, nearly a dozen refuge managers and biologists have agreed to participate in the project and are eager to join this new effort. Since starting this new partnership, the South Central CASC team has continued to expand efforts to building relationships with additional staff across the refuge network. Recently, we started offering short introductory presentations about how climate change impacts the region at their staff meetings. Moving forward, we plan to hold a series of workshops to assist refuge managers and biologists identify additional research areas, which we will share with the South Central CASC research team.


Evaluating a Steady-State Model of Soil Accretion in Everglades Mangroves (Florida, USA)

December 11, 2020

A model was created along the southwest coast of Florida to determine if mangrove soil accretion could withstand sea level rise. This was done by measuring two variables over 12 years along the estuarine area of the Shark River. Model estimates, combined with measurements of root production and mineral deposits, were used to calculate their contribution to steady-state vertical soil accretion. This research highlights how hurricanes can have a positive impact on non-steady-state soil accretion that helps keep mangroves in regions frequently disturbed from hurricane activity.


Stress Gradients Interact with Disturbance to Reveal Alternative States in Salt Marsh: Multivariate Resilience at the Landscape Scale

November 23, 2020

Coastal wetlands experience acute disturbances, in addition to long-term sea-level rise. It is unclear whether prolonged flooding from sea-level rise affects the ability of coastal wetlands to recover after an acute disturbance, such as hurricane and storm debris deposition. Researchers quantified a resilience model for Louisiana salt marsh and mapped vulnerability to disturbance across the region. Their findings indicate that sea-level rise will decrease salt marsh resilience, and nearly half the area’s marshes are vulnerable to mudflat conversion after disturbance.


Online Short Climate Courses Fall 2020

November 16, 2020

During Fall 2020, the South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center hosted two online short courses for natural and cultural resource managers, students, teachers, tribal environmental professionals, and others worldwide. The short courses offered participants an introduction to the climate system and an introduction to climate modeling. Our introduction to the climate system course had over 600 people register, with nearly 180 people earning their certificate of completion. The second course on climate modeling had over 500 people register and just over 120 people earned their certificate of completion. These are some of the highest numbers of registrations and completions we’ve had with our online courses. Our completion rates of approximately 30% and 24% exceed the median of 12.6% for most online courses, and we are excited to see the turnout for our Spring 2021 courses on the impacts of climate change. Participants who took part in either all or a portion of the online learning environment have sent us their sincerest appreciation for the free course material. We look forward to continuing our online course offerings in the future.


National Tribal and Indigenous Climate Cconference (NTICC) Climate Projections Training

October 26, 2020

A hands-on training for practitioners was conducted by members of the Regional CASC network, led by the South Central CASC, at the first Biennial National Tribal and Indigenous Climate Conference (NTICC) held virtually September 14-17, 2020. The training guided attendees through the potentially daunting task of identifying the most useful information, relevant to a particular adaptation management challenge, from a suite of future climate model projections spanning a range of future emissions, global climate models, natural variability, and regional downscaling techniques.


Conservation Planning in an Uncertain Climate: Identifying Projects that Remain Valuable and Feasible Across Future Scenarios

October 26, 2020

Researchers developed a conservation prioritization framework that jointly considers the value and feasibility of candidate projects across future climate scenarios. This framework can be applied to the challenge of meeting environmental flow targets across the Red River basin of the south-central USA.


Soil Moisture as an Indicator of Growing Season Herbaceous Fuel Moisture and Curing Rate in Grasslands

October 22, 2020

When soil moisture is reduced, especially during growing seasons, this can lead to a decrease in grassland fuel moisture and accelerate curing. However, the drying and curing process are not well represented in current fire danger models. To explain this relationship, researchers monitored grassland fuelbed characteristics and soil moisture in Oklahoma during two growing seasons.


Modeling Arid/Semi-arid Irrigated Agricultural Watersheds with SWAT: Applications, Strategies, and Solution Strategies

October 20, 2020

Researchers review of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), reveals a strict dominance for better understanding water quality aspects of water management. To deal with a few challenges of SWAT, modelers used several techniques to expand the model’s capabilities and improve process representations. Model advancements in the future would significantly enhance the utility of SWAT in arid or semi-arid irrigated areas.


Hotspots of Species Loss Do Not Vary Across Future Climate Scenarios in a Drought-Prone River Basin

August 25, 2020

Modeled historical and future distributions of stream fish in the Red River Basin of the South-Central US to identify hotpots where the loss of future fish species could be highest. Results could be used for future conservation efforts of similar species or climate scenarios. A changing climate is expected to alter species distributions around the world, but by how much varies depending on the multiple climate scenarios. This research aims to explore these climate scenarios and what it means for species distributions in order to maximize expected conservation benefits in the future.


Tropical Cyclone Landfall Frequency and Large-Scale Environmental Impacts along Karstic Coastal Regions (Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico)

August 6, 2020

Using remote sensing tools, researchers analyzed the frequency, trajectory, and intensity of almost 2,000 tropical cyclones (TCs) from 1851-2019 to identify vulnerable active areas or hotspots across the Yucatan Peninsula (YP), Mexico. Of those TCs, 151 of those hit the YP and the majority on the eastern coast.


Modeling Porewater Salinity in Mangrove Forests (Everglades, Florida, USA) Impacted by Hydrological Restoration and a Warming Climate

August 6, 2020

Researchers implemented a hydrological model that considered groundwater discharge in the Shark River Estuary in the Southwestern Everglades using long-term hydroperiod and porewater salinity (PWS) datasets from 2004-2016. This model was used to determine spatiotemporal variability in the water level and PWS at three riverine mangrove sites.


August Virtual Climate 101 for Natural Resource Managers

August 6, 2020

The South Central CASC will host a Virtual Climate 101 for resource managers to learn about the basics of how the climate system works, climate projections and regional climate impacts.


The Impact of the Biophysical Processes on Sediment Transport in the Wax Lake Delta (Louisiana, USA)

July 28, 2020

In coastal areas, sediment transport is regulated by the interactions of tides, waves, wind and seasonal river discharge. However, the role vegetation plays during these interactions is not well understood. Researchers evaluated these variables by using a set of acoustic and optical sensors deployed for 30-60 days in different seasons in 2015 when several climatic events impacted Mike Island, a delta lobe within the Wax Lake Delta located in coastal Louisiana. Measurements at upstream and downstream stations in Mike Island where vegetation density was low, and the influence of waves were greater downstream. During the summer/fall, dense vegetation constricted the flow of water to near zero at the downstream site. Vegetations growth in the summer/fall reduced the sediment transport compared to the spring season. This study provides important data and information needed to improve the parametrization of biophysical models for future coastal restoration projects.


July Virtual Climate 101 for Natural Resource Managers

July 14, 2020

The South Central CASC will be hosting their first virtual Climate 101 for Natural Resource Managers on July 22-23, 2020. The goals of the workshop are to provide the participants with an overview of climate change in the south-central U.S. (how and why it’s happening), discuss various impacts (fire, drought, invasive species, etc.), and talk about how to include climate information in resource management decisions. During the workshop, we plan to have some breakout sessions to discuss science needs and key areas of concern for the agencies represented. We have a full workshop at 30 participants, and because of the high demand for the workshop by our stakeholders, we have scheduled a second virtual Climate 101 for Natural Resource Managers on August 11-12, 2020.


Managing for a Changing Climate: A Blended Interdisciplinary Climate Course

June 24, 2020

The evolving topic of climate change demonstrates a need for educational efforts aimed at the public, legislators and decision makers to communicate with natural and cultural resource managers. For this reason, researchers at the University of Oklahoma developed “Managing for a Changing Climate”, a blended, interactive course focused on multiple topics including the physical climate system, natural climate variability, anthropogenic climate change, vulnerabilities, future impacts of climate change, adaptation planning and decision-making. Material developed for the course includes videos highlighting experts from across academia, government and industry. This course is offered as an upper-division elective at the University of Oklahoma and as a set of online, no cost short-courses for participants worldwide. Both deliveries of the course are comprised of high-quality, formal climate training materials, which can be used outside of the university for educational purposes.


Mangrove Leaf Species-Specific Isotopic Signatures Along a Salinity and Phosphorous Soil Fertility Gradients in a Subtropical Estuary

June 17, 2020

Mangroves are among the most productive wetlands and provide key ecosystem services such as the provision of fisheries habitat and climate warming mitigation due to mangroves ample soil carbon storage capacity. However, there is a lack of understanding of how each mangrove species respond to differences in nutrient availability in combination with soil stressors such as salinity, which can limit their productivity. In this work, senescent and green leaves of three mangrove species were analyzed to determine differences in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus content to elucidate modalities in nutrient and carbon cycling in the Shark River estuary, Florida USA. It was found that due to the unique content of wax n-alkane delta 13C in green leaves per species, this carbon compound can be used as a proxy for salinity in paleoclimate reconstruction studies in coastal regions. This work underscores the critical differences in mangroves species ecophysiological responses to environmental stressors and nutrient availability at the local and regional scales.


Statistically Downscaled Precipitation Sensitivity to Gridded Observation Data and Downscaling Technique

June 17, 2020

Climate impact assessments are created with data products that rely on statistical downscaling (SD), which is a technique used to take information from low to high resolution and address biases from global climate models on a regional and local scale. However, output discrepancies still exist as downscaled climate projections are sensitive to the method and data used in the downscaling process. This research is focused on understanding how changes to these initial inputs and defined parameters in the SD technique impact the projections. Such information is valuable to help improve how downscaled data is used in impacts research. Results of this study show two primary areas of sensitivity in the downscaled projections: (1) the intensity of future precipitation events vary depending on how observational data is converted to a gridded dataset and (2) the chosen SD technique directly influences what type of climate output signal is given. The findings can be used as a tool for impacts researchers when creating climate impact assessments, as a guide for differences in future downscaled projections.


Future Warming Ocean Temperatures Could Increase Hurricane Winds in the North Atlantic

May 29, 2020

Hurricanes, especially during more recent seasons, are responsible for major devastation along the U.S. coastlines. A South Central CASC Research Affiliate from Louisiana State University, Dr. Jill Trepanier, recently published her work on North Atlantic Hurricane Winds in Warmer than Normal Seas. This research focuses on past hurricane extremes compared to future hurricane events….click here to read more.


New Mexico’s Climate in the 21st Century

May 8, 2020

NM Earth Matters is a twice-yearly color newsletter published in print and online by the NM Bureau of Geology. Print copies are distributed to teachers and others interested in Earth Science across the state. Each issue features one invited paper, written for nonspecialists. My article summarizes observed and projected climate change across the state, showing that: (a) temperature has been rising rapidly; precipitation shows no long-term trend but is hugey variable; (b) warmer, drier conditions are projected; (c) these changes have big implications for the state’s economy.


Snow Processes in Mountain Forests: Interception Modeling for Coarse-Scale Applications

May 7, 2020

Prior coarse scale modeling efforts have arrived at many inaccuracies when estimating the amount of snow and surface albedo in forested areas. However, with the inclusion of novel (yet simplistic) ways of representing snow interception, the primary driver of snow heterogeneity in forested areas, South Central CASC supported researcher demonstrates how more accurate estimations of snow water and surface albedo can be derived in land surface models.


Observed Increases in the Contribution of Spring Precipitation to Streamflow in the Southwest

May 7, 2020

South Central CASC supported researchers found that as snowpack decreases (evident in observations), a larger fraction of annual runoff comes from late spring precipitation. Peak snow can be observed but the predictability of Spring precipitation is limited, hence runoff predictability is declining. Improvements in Spring precipitation forecasts would directly enhance runoff forecasts–much more so than improving temperature predictions.


A Transboundary, Socio-Environmental Database for the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Basin

March 31, 2020

Finding solutions for better managing scarce water resources that meets growing human water needs while sustaining ecosystems, requires data-sharing and integration across several agencies and disciplines. Increasing human population paired with a changing climate poses many challenges and uncertainties for water resource managers…. click here to read more.


Hurricane Activity Linked to Fertilization of Coastal Mangroves

February 25, 2020

Though hurricanes can wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems and native species, there are benefits of these storms coming ashore. Recently, a publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found evidence of soil nutrients increasing after a hurricane makes landfall in the Gulf of Mexico…. click here to read more.